The second novel of le Carré’s Karla Trilogy, following Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and preceding Smiley’s People.
The "Circus" (MI6) is in sorry shape after the mole "Gerald" was unmasked. George Smiley, now head of the Circus, must go on the offense. They find a trail of money leading to a Hong Kong businessman, Drake Ko. Jerry Westerby, a newspaper reporter and occasional agent, is sent out to Hong Kong to shake Ko’s tree.
Smiley is a secondary character here. Jerry is the honourable schoolboy of the title, a big, bluff, middle-aged aristocrat and second-rate newspaper hack. Jerry travels all over South-East Asia, against the backdrop of the fall of Saigon, in his efforts to track down leads. The half-crazy pilots that he encounters in the jungle evoke the world of Joseph Conrad.
Jerry himself becomes increasingly unhinged as he becomes obsessed with Ko’s roundeye mistress, Lizzie Worthington, to the great alarm of his Circus minders, with ultimately tragic results.